Suffering With Purpose

Message:  In Romans 5 two big things stuck with me this morning. The first thing was in verses 2-5 where it says that in the same way we rejoice in the glory of God, we also rejoice in our affliction. I have read these passages and heard them quoted for years but I could never quite relate to the idea of ‘rejoicing in affliction’ except in the context of knowing there was something to be gained from it later. If I suffer by exercising, I gain the benefit of being fit. But today I noticed that not only are we to rejoice in affliction, but the verse before that tells us that we should rejoice in our affliction in the same way that we rejoice in the glory of God. You have to be a little bit warped to feel good about that thought until you go in a little deeper. Actually, a lot deeper.  Verse 3 continues on to tell us that our affliction produces endurance (this is good) and our endurance produces proven character (even better) and proven character produces hope that will not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Still not feeling it? Well as I mentioned, I have heard this and read this for years but what I really grasped onto today was the parallel this has with Jesus. When he walked the earth, they liked the miracles he did, and they followed him for that- and also because they hoped he would overthrow the corrupt Roman government and rule over them. But Jesus wasn’t talking about ruling that kingdom. He was talking about another kingdom- His kingdom. His disciples struggled to understand but they were loyal and they followed him until he died. But after he resurrected everything changed. A new boldness rose up in his disciples because although his miracles were amazing, his resurrection actually revealed who he was. Now they really knew he was the Messiah where before they were just really hoping he was. This may not seem big to us, but the Jews knew how incredibly important this was. They were taught and read prophesies about the Messiah their entire lives. The Messiah was the promise and their whole purpose was wrapped around waiting for this Messiah.  Suddenly, all of that suffering they had watched Jesus endure now had a purpose that made sense because his resurrection proved he was the Messiah. How does that relate to us? Because when we suffer, and we build endurance and when that endurance builds our character people are watching and they begin to recognize Jesus in us and it gives them hope. Not because we look so good, but because when his character and likeness shows up in us people recognize that change and know it is God working in us.  When we have hope we are able to suffer with some purpose. This reminds me of having a baby. The suffering is painful and often long, but that suffering has a purpose. We know that on the other side of all that pain and suffering is a beautiful baby. That baby is the purpose of and the hope we look forward to during our suffering. The other thing that stuck out to me today was the fact that when Jesus suffered and died our sins were cleared, but when he resurrected, this is what reconciled us to God. This is what changed everything because when he died he was just another martyr and a blood sacrifice. The Jews sacrificed animals all the time to atone for their sins, but when Jesus resurrected, that sacrifice became permanent. No more sacrifices were needed, we became reconciled to God and were brought in as co-heirs with Jesus. How’s that for hope? We often forget the power that this status gives us, but remember, Jesus didn’t use that power for his own gain. He used it to reveal the father to others. He was the example, and this is our purpose. We don’t suffer just for the sake of suffering, and we don’t suffer only to gain something good. All of it has purpose and it will not go to waste if we are suffering for the purpose of making God known. Just like Jesus did.

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